Zapekanka – Sweet Eastern European Cottage Cheese Bake
Zapekanka is a staple from my childhood and is quite unique to Eastern European cuisine. This healthy, by modern day standards, bake used to be served as lunch at the kindergarten I went to during soviet times. It was also quite popular simple weekday dessert or even breakfast. Something sweet for the tea, that is also easy to make from the ingredients most families had in the fridge. Loosely translated, Zapekanka means that something is baked in a form – a bake really. It can be anything that was mixed together and baked in a baking dish, but while other baked dishes usually do have some other names or description, Zapekanka without further explanation usually refers to this particular dairy pudding.
There is a reason it was frequently served in kindergarten – it is very popular with kids and my toddler is not an exception. She absolutely loves it and we make “kanka” on a regular basis. This is a great way to give a child healthier protein and calcium rich meal, that tastes like dessert, but can be eaten frequently. The cheesecake like consistency of zapekanka makes it easy for small babies and toddles to eat it.
It is very important to use the right kind of curdled cheese for this pudding, called tvorog. The closest thing to tvorog is quark or kvarg and it can be used for zapekanka but the consistency will be slightly different. Tvorog can be bought at Eastern European sections of larger supermarkets or, if you like experiments, you can make it yourself. I buy the Polish tvorog, which comes in a block. Russian variety has similar taste and texture, but usually loosely packed.
Zapekanka can be served as breakfast, lunch or dessert. It is high in protein, low in sugar and kids love it!
- 450 g Full fat tvorog
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup or about 3 full tbsp Greek yoghurt
- 4 tbsp semolina.
- 3 tbsp sugar. Or up to 5 for sweeter bake
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 pinch of vanilla powder
- 3 tbsp raisins (optional)
Place tvorog in a mixing bowl and break it up with a fork. Hint: kids love doing this!
Add the rest of the ingredients, liquid first, followed by dry, and mix together by hand or in a mixer.*
Mix in raisins, if using, and pour batter into a glass or ceramic baking dish.**
Bake at 1800 C for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and springy to the touch.
Cool a little before serving.
*using a mixer will result in very smooth, cheesecake like consistency. Mixing by hand will result in more traditional, coarser zapekanka.
**there's no need to grease or line Pyrex or ceramic dishes. If using any other baking ware, it will need to be lined with baking parchment. Zapekanka comes in all shapes and sizes, so the form of the baking ware does not matter.
Zapekanka will store in the fridge for a couple of days and will become firmer when cooled completely.